Rocker T
[Positive Sound Massive Recordings, 2003]

Rocker T More Luv coverThe cover art is enigmatic-the Hindu god Shiva and his consort Durga on a reggae album? Well, fine; it’s a relief from the frequent literalness of the genre. Problem is, the puzzlement extends to the painted lettering for the title and credits, so fancy that they’re downright unfathomable, which is not fine, in fact it’s annoying. Beautiful in their highly decorative Sanskritish way, no doubt, but I happen to want to know such basic information as the artist’s name, the album’s name, and the song titles.

I suppose it’s crass and worldly of me to get so hung up about form and style (the decoration) taking undue precedence over function and content (the readability), when worldliness is what Rocker-T is busy condemning in his songs. So let’s accept for now that it’s my hang-up and move on to the music.

The form is reggae, and very competent, likeable reggae it is. It starts with a melodic ballad of empathy and compassion, then moves to a dancehall tune in which the singer is still inviting us to hold his comforting hand, although he also wants to burn down the Queen of England and Buckingham Palace, among other people and things. The title song (I have to accept the word of the promotional material that “More Luv” is the album title, not being able to read it on the cover itself, as you’ll remember) is another hook-laden piece that includes an extended fast chat about how full of love Mr. T is. Continuing in this vein, the album flows efficiently along for an hour and a quarter, its structure cleverly maintaining our interest though varied riddims and well-timed switches between singing and deejaying.

Despite the length, the only element that becomes truly tedious is the militantly fundamentalist theology, which in its inevitable contradictions is, to most of us, no more logical or acceptable in Rastafari than in any other religion. Here it is expressed forcefully, humorlessly, and endlessly, declarations of all-encompassing love competing in the same song with highly judgmental intolerance and vociferous condemnation. In small doses I can take that sort of thing; but this is no small dose. We’re made aware early in the album that wickedness is widespread and bad, and that he, Rocker-T, embodies both truth and righteousness. An hour later we’re still being advised of that, with the added tidbit that he’s also very humble. By this time I’ve begun to think that the form (very tasty reggae) has dangerously taken precedence over the content (the lyrics), which, unleavened by wit or wisdom, is not palatable at all. Or maybe I’m simply too hung up, still.